Dubbed the Newbird, the car has been picked not because people in key EV buying demographics nostalgically remember them as minicabs in the 90s, but because the Bluebird was the first Nissan to be produced in the Sunderland plant way back in 1986.
Bringing together Nissan’s heritage from 35 years ago with its current electric goals that will see 50 per cent of its sales being EVs by 2030 is an apt celebration. Alan Johnson, Vice President of Manufacturing at the Sunderland plant, said: “The Newbird represents all that is great about our plant – past present and future – as we celebrate 35 years of manufacturing in Sunderland.”
Beneath that silhouette, familiar to so many, is the running gear from a Nissan LEAF. Engineers removed the petrol engine and gearbox and replaced them with a LEAF motor, inverter and 40kWh battery pack. The modules for the battery have been split between the engine bay and the boot for better weight distribution – not that the Bluebird was ever famed for its handling balance.
Power steering, braking and heating now run on electric power, whilst the suspension has been upgraded to cope with the additional weight of the battery pack.
Other nice touches which make the Newbird almost indistinguishable versus its petrol powered counterparts include the charging port which is accessed via the car’s original fuel flap. Furthermore, Nissan has retained the original instrument panel but wired it so that the fuel gauge now shows the battery’s state of charge.
Nissan reckons that the Newbird is good for around 130 miles on a charge and with a 0-62mph time of less than 15 seconds, its performance is on a par with original 1.6 and 1.8-litre cars. The battery charges at just 6.6kW, but then again, this is a show car rather than something designed for regular use.
On the outside, Nissan Design Europe created a new graphic motif which is inspired by 1980s technology.
The EV conversion itself was overseen by Kinghorn Electric Vehicles – a small engineering company based in Durham which specialises in converting classic cars into EVs using Nissan LEAF motors, inverters and batteries.
George Kinghorn, head of the family business, said: “With this project we think we’ve created a car that captures the soul of the Nissan Bluebird, with the heart of a Nissan LEAF.”
Whilst you’re unlikely to see electrified Nissan Bulebirds, well, at all, we think the Newbird is a fun homage to Nissan’s hugely positive impact on the Northeast of England. That it combines the past and future of Nissan’s presence simply adds to the joy.